US senator Kyrsten Sinema has vowed to never join the Republican party after she changed her party affiliation from Democrat to independent late last year.
In an interview aired on Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation, the Arizona senator said that she is “absolutely” done with the country’s two-party political system.
The show’s host, Margaret Brennan, asked: “Now that you’re an independent, you’ll never become a Republican?”
“No,” said Sinema, who has been accused of actually being a Republican after past legislative actions that have been hostile to Democrats’ agenda. She added: “You don’t go from one broken party to another.”
Sinema elaborated by saying: “Arizona is one of the states that has the highest level of independents in the country. We are a state of folks who don’t often march to the drum that is being taught to us, right. So most of us don’t fit neatly in one box or another. And I think the challenge that we have right now in our political discourse is to make it OK for folks to think on their own.”
Reports emerged last month that Sinema was preparing to run for re-election in 2024 as an independent after landing her office as a Democratic candidate in 2018.
Those reports came after Sinema in December switched her party affiliation from Democrat to independent. She announced the change almost immediately after Democrats and independents who caucus with them had secured a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
“I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington,” Sinema said in a statement at the time.
Despite reports about her re-election plans, Sinema herself has remained tight-lipped in that respect.
“It sounds like you want a second … term,” Brennan told Sinema in the interview aired on Sunday. Sinema replied: “I’m not here to talk about elections today.”
Brennan countered, “Why keep people guessing?”
Sinema said: “I want to stay focused on the work that I’m doing. I hope folks who are here today can tell how much it matters to me to actually make progress, solve challenges, deliver results.
“That is why I get up and go to work every day. I don’t get up and go to work every day so that people can say, you know, is she running again or not? That’s just not my concern.”
During her first term as senator, Sinema has often withheld her support for various legislative initiatives put forth by the Joe Biden White House, including voting rights protections. That drew the ire of progressives, many of her colleagues and supporters of the Democratic president.
Sinema nevertheless has maintained that she has a working relationship with the White House – particularly on immigration reform legislation – despite her changed party affiliation.
“I talked to the White House several times this week. I feel confident that if we are able to get a workable plan that has the support of 60-plus senators in the United States Senate, I feel confident that President Biden would support it. I feel confident,” said Sinema.
Sinema’s pursuit of another Senate term as an independent could mean a competitive three-way race for her seat in Arizona. Democratic US House representative Ruben Gallego, 43, has declared as a candidate, and unsuccessful 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, 53, has said she is exploring a run.
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